Perfect chicken schnitzel: it’s all in the breadcrumbs

Pick up some panko breadcrumbs for a brilliantly versatile and crispy schnitzel that kids will love

Chicken schnitzel with chopped salad and lemon

Chicken schnitzel with chopped salad and lemon

 

I usually make schnitzel with my own homemade dried breadcrumbs but really felt like I needed to do the original recipe justice and use panko. Panko breadcrumbs are crisp, light and give that oh so delicious freshly fried crunchy texture.

After much wandering, I finally found panko breadcrumbs in the Japanese food section of my local supermarket, tucked in neatly next to the wasabi, nori rolls and rice wine vinegar. These breadcrumbs are an essential ingredient for tonkatsu, a crispy breaded, deep-fried pork chop.

Leftover panko breadcrumbs last very well for many months in a sealed jar in the cupboard, and there are so many uses for them. Use them to coat aubergine slices before deep frying, or mixed with grated cheddar as an instant crispy topping on a macaroni cheese. They act as an excellent binding agent when making homemade burgers or meatballs too.

For schnitzel, the large crustless flakes of bread don’t absorb oil the way regular breadcrumbs do, so the chicken remains crisp and light on the outside. If you can’t find panko then use breadcrumbs made from crustless bread and dry them out in the oven on a low heat. They don’t need to be toasted, but rather dry and airy.

I sometimes add sesame seeds, some finely grated parmesan, or spices such as cumin or garam masala to the panko mix, for different results. I always add a little Dijon mustard to the egg when I’m using it to coat fish, chicken or pork. It gives an indistinguishable layer of flavour, accentuating the meat’s own savoury qualities. My children never notice the mustard.

The schnitzel can be served with pasta, or curry sauce for dipping, sliced on a bowl of rice, or with broccoli and baby potatoes. It’s brilliantly versatile and always a huge hit with children.

I serve it with a chopped salad. I usually make a big bowl of this salad on a Sunday evening and dip into it for lunches and dinners throughout the week. I always place a wedge of lemon on each plate, it’s really great squeezed over the hot fried chicken.

CHICKEN SCHNITZEL WITH CHOPPED SALAD

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
For the salad:
½ red pepper
½ yellow pepper
½ cucumber
2 sticks celery
6 radish
1 carrot, peeled
A squeeze of lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil

For the schnitzel:
2-3 chicken breasts
125g plain flour
Sea salt and black pepper
1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1 egg
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
100g panko breadcrumbs
4 tbsp oil (light olive oil or sunflower oil)
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Method

1 First make the salad. Finely chop all of the vegetables into uniform cubes. Toss with the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with a little salt and set aside.

2 Butterfly open the chicken breasts by laying them flat on a chopping board and with the palm of one hand flat on top, slice across horizontally to ‘butterfly’ it open. Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of greaseproof paper and flatten with a rolling pin or wine bottle, until they are about 3mm thick.

3 Assemble three wide, shallow bowls. Season the flour with salt, pepper and the smoked paprika in one bowl. Whisk the egg, water and Dijon mustard together in another bowl. Place the breadcrumbs in the third bowl.

4 Dip each piece of chicken into the flour, then egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Lay each one on a large baking tray while you dip the rest.

5 Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium to high heat. Fry each schnitzel for two to three minutes each side, until completely golden and the chicken is cooked through. Once cooked, place them on kitchen paper and keep them warm while you cook the rest. Serve with the chopped salad and a wedge of lemon.

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